(NHI) by Jeremy Jacob Peretz

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Blue lives don’t need to tell Black lives
that they don’t think their lives matter when
it’s encoded into (in)justice system’s jargon of
technical term cyphers of different alphanumeric
combinations color categorized levels of threats
acronyms distilling down values for efficient tidy
responses easing communication yet concealing
meanings meant not to be understood except by
those on the “inside” deploying the language in
secrets only law enforcement personnel know
and maybe their allies and kin who could have
been the ones who revealed hidden definitions
to researchers press and other interested parties
that to the police and state certain persons are
not persons not humans at all but when sighted
houseless disabled black brown gay caught out
of place in a wrong zone selling gang affiliated
are nonpersons conspiring to commit crimes
that somehow have no humans involved.

* Note: Sylvia Wynter writes “that public officials of the judicial system of Los Angeles routinely used the acronym N.H.I. to refer to any case involving the breach of the rights of young Black males who belong to the jobless category of the inner city ghettos. N.H.I. means ‘no humans involved.’” David Berreby adds that “NHI — No Humans Involved” is “American law enforcement slang for crimes by prisoners against other prisoners.” Observing that police and other state authorities “admit to using the term,” Elizabeth Sisco references an example in a 1990 news article wherein “the Sacramento Bee quoted a San Diego police officer: ‘These were misdemeanor murders, biker women and hookers. We’d call them NHI’s-no humans involved.’”

Sources: Sylvia Wynter, “‘No Humans Involved’: An Open Letter to My Colleagues,” in Forum N.H.I.: Knowledge for the 21st Century, (Institute N.H.I., 1994); David Berreby, Us and Them: The Science of Identity, (University of Chicago Press, 2008); Elizabeth Sisco, “NHI-No Humans Involved,” in Critical Condition: Women on the Edge of Violence, ed. Amy Scholder, (City Lights Books, 1993).

Jeremy Jacob Peretz

Jeremy Jacob Peretz is a doctoral candidate in Culture and Performance in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA. He is currently teaching, conducting fieldwork, and writing a dissertation on intersections of religious and racial politics in Guyana. Jeremy has received numerous awards and fellowships in support of his ethnographic field research and writing, including the Ralph C. Altman Award from the Fowler Museum and second place prize in the 2017 Ethnographic Poetry Competition hosted by the American Anthropological Association. His writings have appeared in Anthropology & Humanism, Blithe Spirit, Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, Ufahamu, and elsewhere in print and online.